Today and tomorrow, Huron University College students are voting on whether or not they want to increase their contributions to the Student Refugee Program.
The SRP is run through the World University Service of Canada and supports over 130 refugee students every year by partnering with campuses across the country.
Each year, Huron University College students pay a $15 student fee to the program, which pays for one student refugee's expenses, including a meal plan, residence fees, a monthly stipend and travel loans. Huron waives the student's tuition fees. The funding lasts 12 months.
In response to increasing fees and costs of living, the Huron University College Students' Council is asking students if they agree to pay $5 more, which would make each student's SRP fee $20 starting next year.
Travis Moore, chair of Huron's SRP, said that the fee increase will help to adequately support the program.
"There are some costs that have increased over the years," Moore said. "The money would make sure that our budget reflects the actual costs."
Gabriel Ndayishimiye is one of the students who has come to Canada through the SRP. His family fled the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and spent 22 years in refugee camps. He had spent the previous 15 years before coming to Huron living in a camp in Malawi, where he attended school.
Ndayishimiye was accepted into the SRP in 2015.
"That was a life-changing opportunity, getting to come to Canada. Automatically, I would be a permanent resident in Canada, [and] I would have a sense of belonging: something I had never enjoyed in my whole life," Ndayishimiye said. "I knew that my life was going to change."
For Ndayishimiye, life in the camp was hard. He often went to school and worked any job he could find in order to support his family. Once he came to Canada, he realized his work experience would be obsolete, so he decided to get involved with extracurriculars on campus. However, the SRP program only funds students for 12 months, and when that period came to an end in summer 2016, Ndayishimiye had to support himself with two jobs.
Unfortunately, he said the jobs conflicted with his extracurriculars. After being elected as the department representative for his program, he was forced to step down from the position because of the demands of his jobs.
Waseem Kazzah, president of the World University Service of Canada at Huron, said that Ndayishimiye's story prompted some students to approach the HUCSC with a proposal to raise the SRP fee, in order to better support SRP students throughout their studies.
Students will be asked whether or not they support the raised fee on their Huron University College Students' Council elections ballot on Jan. 30 and 31. Students can vote in the referendum online.